Photo courtesy Hill Top Bakery on Facebook

KAUKAUNA — Although they’ve been a Polish tradition for centuries, today the humble Pączki is a must-have treat in the days leading up to Lent.

Pronounced “poonch-key” the specialty Polish pastry traditionally has been reserved for Fat Tuesday, the final day before the 40-day Lenten season begins.

Their popularity has exploded in recent years.

In Kaukauna, there are two places to stock up on pączki:

StoneRidge Piggly Wiggly, 300 E. Ann Street, (920) 766 – 6080, has all the traditional varieties available in their bakery. (The only flavor they’re out of is prune.)

Hill Top Bakery, 100 E. 7th St., (920) 766-1771, will have a limited number for sale Tuesday, but they are expected to sell out quickly. Preorders are recommended and can be made through Saturday by calling the bakery. They are closed Sunday and Monday.

Although some say the pączki is similar to a jelly doughnut, the fried, glazed and sugar-coated pastry is made with an especially rich dough.

The tradition began in 9th century Poland as pagan traditions were mixing with Christian holidays.

Now in the United States, communities with large Polish populations still celebrate the time before Lent with paczki. Cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Pittsburg have become the global capitals of the doughnut.

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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.